Italian design. The beauty of everyday life between Italy and Argentina.
Dolores Lamarca

Going through this exhibition at the National Museum of Decorative Art (Buenos Aires) is to fly over the trends of Italian and Argentine industrial design from the post-war years to the present, by the hand of its curator Silvana Annichiarico. The rooms of the museum are bathed in songs by Gianni Nazzaro such as A modo mío, or Volare by Domenico Modugno, transporting the viewer to a totally innovative spirit of the times.



The material beauty of everyday life is made up of those objects that surround us and make life more comfortable and pleasant. Starting in the mid-20th century, design schools burst onto the scene as a global phenomenon, and the 1970s were the key moment. This originates previously in the European schools like the Bauhaus, Ulm and others that gave the initial kick to this process. Later on, the new industrial designer will no longer be content with the object fulfilling the function of use, but rather will seek a symbiosis between aesthetics and technology.

The exhibition proposal is divided into chronological axes and the assembly allows to differentiate the dialogue between the Italian objects on white platforms and the Argentine ones on light blue platforms.

The first axis (1945-1963) corresponds to the European post-war period. Italy committed to the reconstruction of the country, is positioned on the concept of building a country brand from design. Between 1958 and 1963 the economic boom that occurs makes it one of the largest industrial powers in the world. The Vespa, the Fiat 500 cars, the world of furniture that experiments with new materials and technologies burst onto the scene.

The first object on display is Olivetti’s Lettera 22 (1960), an automatic writing tool that makes office work easier. As for the furniture, new formulations are observed such as the iconic Tractor Seat by Zanota (1957), a piece of industrial production in which a new type of support is used, different from the traditional four-legged one.


It is also sought to make ultra-light and resistant pieces such as the Super Leggera chair by Gio Ponti (1957), which boasted that it could be lifted with one finger. Italian designs are daring, they innovate with colors and play with very playful textile upholstery.


In parallel with the time: what were the Argentines thinking?

Furniture equipment is made in line with the telluric, the artisanal, the local in an industrial way, linked to rationalism, a global trend that cleans everything. The Harpa group reverts the “junco chair”, the classic country chair, with the S552 model. Likewise, Susi Aczel, a forerunner in the history of Argentine design and a great cultural manager, settled in Argentina and founded “Interieur forma” with her partners, a pioneer in product design and business management in the country, revaluing local materials in connection with the new.


The second axis corresponds to the period (1964-1972) characterized by object democracy and consumer fetishes.

As for Italian design, the absolute leading role is taken by plastic materials, light, smooth and colorful casings. Objects such as the iconic TS 502 compact radio emerge, which in part takes something from war design, from aviation. At that time “being modern” meant having devices with “portability” and this radio was synonymous with youth and technology. Valentine, (1969) a new model of typewriter, designed by Ettore Sottsass and Perry King, for Olivetti, is part of this period of social change and lifestyle: it is portable, with a shiny ABS body, with a handle for transport and with a case that protects it from impacts.

VALENTINE 1969 OLIVETTIAs for the furniture, the change is enormous. Armchairs are made with modular pieces in multi-part foam rubber, such as the Superonda Armchair, (1967) by Archizoom Associati, a design inspired by the waves of the sea, with an unstructured youthful red vinyl upholstery, that no longer responds to the typology of seat at 90 degrees. It generates a particular climax of relaxation for the user, a movie design that will establish Italy as a way of life.

SILLÓN SUPERONDA 1967 Archizoom Associati

Objects are no longer designed from a functional point of view but from an emotional point of view, and end up being playful pieces that burst into space, such as the Cactus coat rack (1972) by Franco Mello and Guido Drocco.


Edgardo Giménez, Argentine pop icon, with his Torres furniture, is producing a daring sculptural work, closely related to global design. It should be remembered that Argentina was used to seeing what Argentine designers like Tomás Maldonado produced in the world and this favored intense international contact.


The third axis (1973-1983) is related to the crisis and communication of emotions. The oil crisis disrupts the boundless faith in progress that characterized the 1960s. The 1970s are contradictory in terms of design: on the one hand, it boosts industrial production and, on the other, it challenges and questions it. The use of plastic is reduced, in favor of a return to wood and natural fibers. The Proust armchair, (1978) by Alessandro Mendini, reverts an 18th-century style piece of furniture conceived as a single piece, into a serial element. The Skel armchair (1973) designed by the Argentinian Ricardo Blanco, uses a plywood over a die to give it its final shape.


Designs such as the Noblex television, MICRO 14nT320, (1972) by Roberto Nápoli, with a colored casing, are launched, and once again portability and youth are present.

Between 1984 and 1998, Italian companies summon designers from all over the world and set out to conquer international markets. A new culture of image and communication emerges. More than objects of use, they are playful pieces, to give as gifts, iconic and identity signs and towards the end of the decade, a line of research linked to ecology and environmental sustainability and recycling began to be developed. The last section of the exhibition takes place between (1999-2020) in which the arrival of the new millennium Italian design points to the process and the capacity for self-representation and the ability to imagine, create and innovate.

Product lines that explore the possibilities of materials to the extreme, such as the Ghost seat (1987) by Cini Boeni and Tomu Katayanagi, in a transparent glass sheet, to the Flu-x chair (1995) by the Argentine Emilio Ambasz and its detailed ergonomic study .

The figure of the designer who values the living conditions of the people trying to improve the economy and well-being of a country, is open to new experiences such as the design of web pages, graphics, multimedia designers, reaching even playful environments. and those who work with digital images. Design becomes a culture and is applied to the entire world, reflects the curatorial story.

The exhibition can be visited from Wednesday to Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., with free admission until 01/29/2023. Av del Libertador 1902 C.A.B.A


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